Jacob Lee: Musical Philosophy From Down Under

Jacob LeePhoto Credit: Facebook @jacoblee

You know what’s not the worst idea in the world? Being sure of the precise words to a song before making them a permanent part of your body. A female fan of Australian singer-song writer Jacob Lee apparently failed to heed this, as she now sports a tattoo on her shin meant to be a line from his current single “Conscience”. Rather than the actual lyric, “I saw the world through a notch” instead bears the unintentionally cryptic (not to mention incorrect), “I saw the world through an orange.”

Lee was apparently not offended by the error, particularly since he says he’s met or heard from quite a few fans who’ve gotten tattoos of lines from his songs (sometimes even quoted right). Words clearly matter just as much to Lee as well, who when asked to name his influences as a songwriter cites no musicians – only prose authors, including Marcus Aurelius, Paulo Coelho and Mitch Albom. The music, however, is hardly a besides-the-point, as Lee typically forges a catchy-but-compelling weave of modern synth pop, acoustic folk and accessible jazz.

Lee is also not one to lowball the level of his personal ambition: “I want to be the most profound writer in music,” he states in our interview conducted via e-mail. Lee began posting individual tracks online starting in 2014 and recently released his first full-length album, Philosophy. Almost concurrently, he also took the usual move of putting out a companion release, Philosophical Sessions, which were stripped-down acoustic versions of the same songs in the exact order. “As much fun as we have engineering the songs [on Philosophy] and steering them toward uncharted territories, I still wish for the audience to hear the pieces as they were written… [since] each and every track you’ve heard of mine was written alone, behind closed doors and with an acoustic guitar.”

Jacob-Lee-Tour

All of this may sound a bit like ego – hardly uncommon for a professional musician but still off-putting to some. Lee addresses this on “Conscience,” (also the title of his next album, due later this year): “I saw myself as a god // That’s when I realized I wasn’t.” “[It’s] the realization that the very act of thinking you’re superior is actually in fact acting out the opposite,” he says. “To think you’re better just because you’ve done more or found more luck in life is nothing but dewy-eyed naivety.” At the same time, though, Lee says, “I’ve always felt as though I had something special to give. I don’t exactly know what it’s like to not feel motivated and I’ve always known that I have a path. Whether destiny or not, I’ve always felt some sort of calling or purpose to fulfill. I know, sounds massively hippie.”

What does not sound “massively hippie” – the antithesis, if anything – is that a short-haired, clean-shaven Lee started out as a contestant on the Australian version of The Voice and also spent time as a member of Oracle East, a – gulp! – boy band. Although Lee declined to comment on that time in his career, any possibility of it coming back to haunt him seems minimal at best (no one in the U.S. seemed to care that Alanis Morissette had once been Canada’s answer to Debbie Gibson).

During his first tour of the U.S. this summer Lee will definitely be starting in the low end of the pool, playing only a handful of dates at smaller venues (like the Mercury Lounge in New York City, which holds two-hundred-and-fifty people). Nonetheless, Lee see’s his ever-growing fan base as being more than just individuals who appreciate his music. “I’ve been visualizing this moment for quite some time,” he says. “I’m so very lucky in that I seem to have cultivated a community of people who appreciate acceptance, empathy, creativity and imagination, and it becomes ever more apparent when I get to meet them after all the shows… I guess when your sole intention has always been to try and improve the lives of others through your artistry and it actually starts happening you begin to understand the very definition of surreal.”

Written by Richard John Cummins

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